RIM is to launch mobile device management software that works with BlackBerry, Android and iOS devices as the company recognises that its devices are no longer the automatic choice of business users.
BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will allow IT departments to manage multi-platform smartphones and RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet for the first time using a single piece of software.
Administrators will be able to manage apps on iOS and Android devices, track down lost or stolen handsets, view user and device information, and define IT policies and connectivity settings, explained Tim Hodkinson, director of EMEA enterprise marketing at RIM.
BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will also allow admins to add and import iOS and Android devices and users and create group memberships.
Additionally, the software will bring management capabilities to tablets such as the PlayBook and iPad. Admins will be able to set up and configure the tablets for individual employees.
BlackBerry users will also gain the added benefit of the BlackBerry Balance app, which will separate business and personal information.
RIM has decided to make the software available following customer demand, and Hodkinson denied that the company is conceding ground in the enterprise market.
"Enterprises and SMBs have been asking for enhanced device management capabilities to allow them to manage the PlayBook and other third-party devices," Hodkinson told V3.
"We see the device management market as a growth opportunity, and Fusion will allow customers to manage multiple platforms and devices from a single interface. However, RIM will also continue to build its device portfolio, having released a range of BB7 devices, the PlayBook tablet this year and announced BBX devices for 2012."
BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will initially work with BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.3 or later and BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express 5.0.3 or later.
However, Hodkinson noted that a standalone edition of the software could be released if there is significant customer demand, and that support for Windows Phone may be added if it proves popular in the enterprise.
The software will support Apple devices running iOS 4.0 and beyond. However, RIM currently states that only Android 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 devices will be supported. There is no word yet on support for Android Honeycomb 3.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.
The lack integration for these platforms could severely limit the usefulness of the software for Android products, so we expect RIM to include support on release or shortly after.
RIM is carrying out beta testing with selected enterprises and is accepting customers for the closed beta programme which will start in January.
The software is due to become generally available at the end of March 2012, with pricing to be confirmed nearer the time.
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